This five-day, self-drive tour provides the perfect winter exploration of Iceland. Start with a drive along the Ring Road to the sights and sounds of crashing waterfalls, then search the night skies for northern lights via horseback. Spot wild reindeer herds along the shores of eastern Iceland, or head to Jökulsárlón glacier Lagoon with its massive floating icebergs. Visit Mosfellsdalur and take a dogsled ride along snow-covered trails before ending your tour with views along the Reykjanes Peninsula.


  • View the magic of the aurora borealis on an evening horseback ride
  • Explore glaciers and geysers at Þingvellir National Park
  • Race along Iceland's winter landscapes via sled dog
  • Walk the Bridge Between Continents and see the shifting continental plates

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Keflavik, South Coast Waterfalls, Northern Lights on Horseback Kirkjubæjarklaustur
Day 2 Skaftafell, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon & Reindeer Spotting Höfn
Day 3 Drive Back Along the South Coast Vík
Day 4 The Golden Circle, Dogsled Tour in Mosfellsdalur Reykjanes Peninsula
Day 5 Depart Keflavík  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Keflavík, South Coast Waterfalls, Northern Lights on Horseback

A horseback tour in search of northern lights 

Welcome to Iceland! Upon your arrival at Keflavík airport, pick up your rental car and head out on Iceland's Ring Road, otherwise known as Route 1. This is one of Iceland's main roads, and just like the name sounds, it circles the entire country. Your final destination today is the small village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, a four-hour drive that takes you along Iceland's South Coast and its sky-high waterfalls, landmarks, and surrounding countryside. 

Your first stop will be the waterfall of Urriðafoss—an excellent place to take photos. Then, head to Seljarlandsfoss. This is the only known waterfall of its kind that allows you to walk behind it, making for a very picturesque view. Farther down the highway, you'll find the cascades of Skógafoss, situated alongside towering glaciers. Make a quick diversion via Route 218 for a visit to Dyrhólaey Peninsula, a nearly 400-foot (120 m) promenade that offers panoramic views of the coast. Then it's on to the black-sand beaches of Reynisfjara, home to offshore sea stacks that are also seabird nesting grounds. 

This evening, you'll have the opportunity to see one of Iceland's most amazing phenomena in a remarkable way, with a hunt for the aurora borealis, or northern lights, on horseback! Enjoy a guided tour on Icelandic horses, sturdy steeds that are built for the country's extreme weather and rugged countryside. Bundle up and ride along bridle paths and riverbeds as you seek out the dancing veils of light in green, white, or red, created by tiny particles, protons, and electrons that escape into the earth's atmosphere. 

Day 2: Skaftafell, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon & Reindeer Spotting

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Depart Kirkjubæjarklaustur and make the one-hour drive to Skaftafell nature reserve and Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. The park is home to the dramatic falls of Svartifoss, and you can hike around the park or make the quick, 3-mile (5 km) trek up to the waterfall, which takes you past scenic views of the river and glacier. From there, head to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, where you'll find the unusual sight of icebergs floating in the sea and beached on the black sand shores of Diamond Beach. You might see seals, porpoises, or small whales in the water, and if you want a closer look, boat tours are available. 

For more wildlife viewing, continue to Iceland's eastern region of Austurland, the only part of Iceland where you're likely to encounter reindeer. Introduced from Norway in the late 1700s, there were once herds of reindeer scattered all over the country. They eventually died out, save for those in the east, which has become a prime environment for the reindeer to thrive. Winter is actually a perfect time for sightings because as snow builds in the mountains, herds will often move closer to shore and the Ring Road. Stop in the town of Höfn tonight, where you can grab a meal and rest up for tomorrow's adventures. 
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Day 3: Drive Back Along the South Coast

Kvernufoss waterfall in winter

Today, you'll head back along the southern coast and to the city of Vík, catching up on any sights you might have previously missed. Film buffs will want to visit Hjörleifshöfði Cave, nicknamed the "Yoda Cave" due to the Yoda-shaped silhouette you can see inside and the fact that the movie "Star Wars Rogue One" was filmed in the area. And if you're after more waterfalls, don't miss Urriðafoss and Gljúfrabúi.

For more education on Iceland's history, stop in at Skógar and visit the museum there. Afterward, you can take a nearby hiking path to Kvernufoss, a small canyon with incredible views. You may also want to visit the Eldhraun lava Field, which was created by an eruption in 1783. A huge lava flow streamed from Lakagígar in what became known as the "Skaftá Fires." Molten lava filled the gorges through which the Skaftá and Hverfisfljót rivers flowed, and swept into inhabited areas, spreading over the lowlands and destroying homes and farms in its wake. 

Upon your arrival in Vík, you can settle in at your accommodations for the evening, or get out and explore the area. If you're looking for more glacier fun, take a snowmobile tour of Mýrdalsjökull Glacier, Iceland's fourth-largest ice cap and home to the active volcano of Katla. Or, go on a hiking and zip lining adventure, where you can trek into the nearby mountains and zip line over the Grafargil river canyon. 

Day 4: The Golden Circle, Dogsled Tour in Mosfellsdalur

Hop on a dogsled and explore the wintry landscapes

Take in the magic of Iceland's Golden Circle today with a visit to Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park. The park, which is considered one of Iceland's most geologically and historically significant landmarks, is home to many natural wonders. Here, you'll find the Silfra fissure, created by the separation of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates cutting through Iceland. Filled with glacial water that has been filtered underground for decades and with nearly 400 feet (120 m) of visibility, it is one of the clearest bodies of water on earth. You can view the fissure from land or take a snorkel tour!

Visit historic Law Rock, where Viking chieftains from all over the country met once a year to discuss laws and issues. Then head to the Geysir geothermal area, with its bubbling mud pits and erupting geysers. After watching the eruptions, enjoy a walk through the Haukadalsskógur forest, visit the Tree Museum, or relax in the natural hot springs at Kúalaug. Later, continue to Gullfoss (Golden Falls), where you can hike the falls or visit the volcanic crater of Kerið.

For authentic Icelandic winter fun, head to the valley of Mosfellsdalur, located approximately 12 miles (20 km) from Reykjavík. Here, you can tour the area via dogsled, feeling the power and energy of the sled dogs as they take you along various trails. During the ride, your musher guide will drive the team while sharing their knowledge and passion about dogsledding, and you'll have a chance to get some photos with the dogs.

Day 5: Depart Keflavík

The northern lights over the Reykjanes Peninsula

You'll bid Iceland farewell today, but if you have time before your flight, visit some of the highlights around the Reykjanes Peninsula during your drive back to Keflavík Airport. Stop at the Krýsuvík geothermal area for a short stroll with views of the steam vents and hot pools, or visit Gunnuhver Hot Springs, where you'll find some bubbling mud pools. The pool temperatures are very hot, so stick to the walkways and viewing areas. While here, continue about five minutes to the cliffs and stop at Reykjanesviti Lighthouse for views of the surrounding countryside.  

Walk the Bridge Between Continents (Europe Miðlína), an area that really showcases Icelandic geology. The Reykjanes Peninsula is on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which pulls apart a few centimeters every year. You can cross the bridge between the continental plates and look down at the gap below. And just before you reach Keflavík, make your final stop at Garður Lighthouse—the perfect spot to stretch your legs before dropping off your car and boarding your departing flight. Safe travels! 

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Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Iceland? Check out these other Iceland itineraries, explore different ways to spend five days in Iceland, or learn about the best time of year to visit Iceland.


Map of Winter Wonders & Wildlife in Iceland - 5 Days
Map of Winter Wonders & Wildlife in Iceland - 5 Days